Banana Walnut Bread

Breads, Muffins and Scones

Yield: one 9×5 inch loaf (about 12-16 slices)
Recipe: 105/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 276

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     With a lot of time suddenly freed up after being done teaching a lab course, I took the opportunity during the weekend to bake a couple of things. It had been a while! Since I had some very ripe bananas in my fridge that needed to be used, I started with this vegan banana and walnut bread. It was simple to make, but the first time that I tasted it I wasn’t too impressed. I found it a bit too salty and not sweet enough. I thought that it was perhaps because my bananas were beyond saving (I’m telling you, they were very old and I think they may have started to ferment) and for this reason were not as sweet as normal ripe bananas. However, the second and third time I tried the bread I grew to like it. The banana flavour is not as strong as what I am used to, but you can definitely still taste the bananas. What surprised me most is the texture of this bread. Since there are no eggs, butter or dairy milk, I was not expecting such a fluffy texture. You could never tell that this recipe is egg-free and dairy-free! If you are looking for a yummy banana bread that does not require eggs or dairy, definitely give this a try! Word to the wise, I strongly advise you to use ripe bananas that have black spots on the skin, that is when they will be the sweetest.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnut pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, vegetable oil and almond or soy milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir until evenly blended.
  5. Stir in the walnut pieces and mix well.
  6. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and cook for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn it out to cool completely.

Valerie

Tangy Lemon Walnut Squares

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 20 squares
Recipe: 84/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 58

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      Lemon desserts are not my favorite thing on the planet, but when one cannot eat chocolate one has to adapt. I made these bars mostly because walnuts are involved and they are easy to share, which is a bonus and makes it easy to bring to work! Perhaps I was a bit biased to start with, but I was not a big fan of this recipe. I found that the base was much to thick compared to the lemon layer, which made for a more dense and nutty bar. If I must redo this recipe I would halve the walnut base and double the lemon layer, which in my opinion is meant to be the star ingredient in this recipe. However, since my colleagues seem to like these lemon walnut bars, perhaps it is just a personal preference. Let me know if you try them!

Ingredients for base:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
  • ⅓ cup icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for lemon layer:

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup white corn syrup
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. For the base, combine the flour and walnut pieces in a food processor. Pulse until the walnut pieces are finely ground.
  3. Add the icing sugar, lemon zest and salt and pulse.
  4. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture is a rough, crumbly texture. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and press down, pushing the crumbs slightly up the edges of the pan (about ¼ inch). Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool before filling.
  5. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs and corn syrup until smooth.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and cornstarch together. Stir in the zest and baking powder, and quickly whisk this into the egg mixture. Pour the filling over the cooled crust.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until set with just a little jiggle in the centre. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan, then slice and dust with icing sugar

Valerie

Caramel Walnut Shortbread Squares

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 25 squares
Recipe: 83/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 62

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     These past two weeks have been very tough for me. My friends and I made a (very stupid, in retrospect) bet about who could go on the longest without their favorite food. Mine, of course, was chocolate. Why did I agree to this ridiculous bet? I still wonder… daily. In any case, I have had no form of chocolate in over two weeks! That includes hot chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate bars, chocolate desserts and even cocoa powder. It hurts. All that to say that last night I desperately needed to bake something that did not contain chocolate and could satisfy my sweet tooth.

      I thus present to you – caramel walnut shortbread squares. These little bars of heavenly gooeyness were an instant hit at work. They received an “honorable mention” from a few colleagues and definitely goes on my list of top desserts I have made from this cookbook (or ever, for that matter). The bite of the shortbread base actually makes the whole bar perfect. It supports the scrumptious gooey caramel and walnut topping. At first I thought that the walnut to surface area ratio was going to be too high. It is, I mean, there are a lot of walnuts on these bars, but they are best that way. If you want a sweet, gooey and satisfying dessert, definitely try these bars.

Ingredients for base:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cool unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for filling:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups walnut halves**

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. Stir the flour, sugar and salt together.
  3. Cut in the butter until the mixture is a rough, crumbly texture. It should not come together as a dough. Press this mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Cool while preparing the filling.
  4. Place the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepot and bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered and without stirring, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water until the sugar caramelizes to a rich amber color, about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cream and butter until it is blended and looks like caramel. Watch out for the steam! Note: if the sugar sticks to the whisk or pot, return the pot to low heat and stir evenly until evenly melted. Allow the caramel to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  7. Gently whisk in the caramel, then stir in the walnut pieces. Pour this mixture into the prepared pan over the base and spread the walnut pieces evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges are bubbling. Cool the squares to room temperature before slicing.

Notes from Valerie:

  • *  I had no more light brown sugar, so used dark brown sugar instead. Tasted great!
  • ** I used walnut pieces instead of walnut halves, since I had those on hand and evidently the taste        would not be altered.

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Valerie

Apple Cheddar Walnut Scones

Breads, Muffins and Scones

Yield: 8 scones
Recipe: 64/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 228

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     This weekend I had the good fortune of remembering that scones are delicious: crunchy on the outside yet moist and tender on the inside. As such, I made these apple cheddar walnut scones and was very pleased with the result! The cheddar cheese called for in this recipe adds a tangy kick that is very pleasing. I have found that scones are one of my favorite things to make because they require no eggs, not a lot of butter and they eat themselves! 

Ingredients:

  • 1  2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 60 g (2 oz.) coarsely grated old cheddar cheese
  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup cold milk, plus extra for brushing
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces, lightly toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, celery salt and cinnamon and stir to combine.
  3. Cut in the chilled butter using your fingers or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Pieces of butter will still be visible.
  4. Stir in the cheddar cheese and grated apple to coat with the flour mixture.
  5. Add in the milk and stir until the dough begins to come together, then turn it out on a lightly floured work surface.
  6. Sprinkle the walnuts over the dough and work them in by flattening the dough with your hands, folding it over itself, and repeating the process 4-5 times until the walnuts are well incorporated into the dough.
  7. Shape the dough into a disc and flatten it out with your hands until it is about 8 inches across. Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place them onto the prepared baking tray.
  8. Brush the tops of the scones with milk and bake for 14-16 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Notes from Anna:

  • The scones are best served the day they are baked, but they can be reheated for 5 minutes in a 300°F oven to refresh them.

Valerie

Frosted Banana Nut Bars

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: 16-18 bars
Recipe: 31/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 66

Frosted banana nut bars

    The incoming weekend could only mean one thing: time to bake and enjoy the weekend with friends! I wanted to make something sweet but light (ish) at the same time. I thus made these seemingly finger-licking good banana nut bars, with frosting! The bars by themselves are very good and savoury, but the frosting gives it that extra touch of sweetness and elegance. I really enjoyed these banana and nut bars. I am sure they will come in handy whenever I need to whip up a fast dessert that tastes and looks good. My only criticism is that the orange zest flavour is too present in the frosting and base for my liking. It almost overpowers the banana flavour. Then again, it may be that I unknowingly picked up some of the orange pith (the bitter white part of the skin) while getting the zest from the orange. Next time I will add less orange zest and I will thus enjoy them even more.

Ingredients for base:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
  • 2/3 cup mashed ripe banana (equivalent to one large or two small bananas)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted walnut pieces

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup or so walnut pieces, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and line and 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure that the paper comes up the sides (this makes it easier for removal).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk the ingredients to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and orange zest.
  5. Add the mashed banana(s) and orange juice.
  6. Stir into this banana mixture the flour mixture and the walnut pieces until well blended.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly by tapping the pan hard on a flat surface. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool the room temperature in the pan, then transfer to a plate and remove the parchment paper.
  8. For the frosting, beat the butter with 1 cup of the icing sugar until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, zest, vanilla extract and the rest of the icing sugar. Beat until the mixture is homogenous. Frost the top of the cake and sprinkle the walnut pieces on it. Let the frosting set, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour (or 30 minutes in the fridge) before slicing it into 16-18 bars.

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Valerie